cultural values

    Mix Messages

    Pop Genius Mix

    I'm not sure what this "cover" of an iTunes Genius Mix says more about: pop's attitude to women, or my taste in music…

    RSA: The Core Economy

    Live blogging an RSA Event, with Dr Edgar Cahn talking about timebanking. Beware: here be typos and inaccuracy


    Steve Broom, director of research at the RSA, introduces Professor Cahn.

    Kahn likes to think of himself as an itinerant troublemaker, a disruptor of assumptions. If you think of a paradigm as a map, then we're following one we need to revise. We think of clients as customers not co-producers, and we over-value privacy and confidentiality, leaving people isolated. We define value in terms of price only. We need to leave this behind and think differently.

    What does money measure? It's a pretty fundamental question. How much of what we thought was economic reality came from the characterstics of money measurement, and how much was the underlying reality?

    Three topics:

    1. Pizza

    You can deliver pizza and package, but you can't deliver health or justice or community or well-bringing. You must view the people you are working with as co-workers. That was the understanding that underlay the concept of co-production - enlisting those we are working with as our partners. In Washington DC he's set up a youth court where teenagers can resolve their problems. It is handling 70% of non-violent crime amongst that group. They are  doing more for the rule of law than his law students are. You cannot deliver solutions to social problems without involving people.

    1. Windows

    If you think of a computer and the icons on the screens, if the OS goes down, buying new applications won't fix it. The economy is like that. The monetary economy runs highly specialised applications, but is not the OS, which is families, households, communities. It's that core economy that we need to repair. When we talk about timebanking, we're talking about rebuilding the OS. The old version has been based on exploitation of women, immigrants, children. We need to move on from that. Every person has something to give - even those see as not economic assets. If nothing else, they can contribute time and care to their family and community. And how far have we fallen if that's not considered valuable? How much of us is actually on our CVs? We have to honour as real work the work that goes into protecting democracy, and supporting the young, old and valuable. That labour is essential to building the world we want. If we allow price to define value. Every capacity that defines us as human beings is worthless under money metrics, because they are abundant… We need to create a complimentary medium of exchange for these.

    1. Prius

    A Prius runs on a thin stream of gasoline, and a large stream of energy it generates. He is of the absurd belief that people who build communities should be allowed to eat. This is reciprocity or mutuality.How many people could your agency mobilise? How could you mobilise them if your funding was cut? It's about what we can do for each other. We need to understand how much we need each other's time and skills. Most people in the service professions have the experience of someone asking "what can I do to pay you back?" Rejecting that sends the message that the other person has no value, nothing you need, and that they're only valuable for their problems. Guess how they increase their assets… The medium of money sends the message that we are passive - consumers. There are other mediums of exchange - academic grades, for example. We need others. We'll need money to do this, but it's nowhere enough on their own. We need to create institutions that thrive on two fuels - thin money and a wide pipe of timebanking.

    Rsacahn Questions

    Broom: The book suggest we're in a time between two worlds - between the wage economy and the core economy. Our new OS could be considered to be the Big Society. Are we really asking the non-market to pick up the costs of the market without reciprocity?

    Cahn: Prius principle: needs a thin stream of money. Without that, you have to walk it, which is a long hard, journey. If we're not prepared to give a brutal critique of the system as it exists, if we just leave it all to government, it won't happen. We need some brutal hell-raising.

    Q: A lot of us instinctively understand co-production, but in local areas, the levers of power are held in small elite groups. Those who try co-production end up outside the system. How do you pitch this to elites?

    A. One levels of attack is how academia - change how it functions to create new systems. In the US, for 30 years there's been a struggle to prove that the disparity in youth justice results based on race was intentional. He shifted the discussion to the future, to give an alternative, and prove that the existing system perpetuates the problem. We need to make it untenable for official s not to use knowledge that works.

    Q. What comes after. Once a Prius institution is up, how do you manage it? Is it possible to live in that kind of mixed economy.

    A. We'll have no choice but to live with it. The question is not what we can do, but what we can set in motion. We get the message that we are the victims of economic cycles, of good time and bad times, and we can't change that. We have the power to change that. You have 8k baby boomers hitting 65 every year for the next eight years. The US needs to see that as a resource, not a disaster.  Timebanking software is going open source, and will soon be available on mobile phones. We can't outbid drug dealers with money, but we can with self-esteem. We need to keep experimenting. And he's a hopeless optimist, he admits. :)

    Q. Examples of work with officials? Often we conclude that this is about low income communities - how do you do it in other places?

    A. Mayor Bloomberg in NYC has launched timebanking city-wide for seniors. It might become a fashionable and prudent thing to do. In Washington DC, the judges who are part of the problem, have no problem joining a coalition to beat up on the schools. In every organisation, there are closet change agents. We have a co=production fidelity index. We can then grade agencies. We'd love to see a fidelity audit of government agencies. 100 clients averaging 4 hours a week of reciprocal work, is 20000 hours a year. Timebanking is for everybody, because everybody is a human… We need to listen and respect everyone. Even wealthy people want their kids to have better values.

    Q. If our own government is telling us that recovering drug addicts are people to be feared, how can we involve them?

    A. In the US we have this insane war on drugs that is costing more than education in many states. His son had a crack problem, but is 21 years clean, and arguing cases in the supreme court. 12 step programs are examples of people supporting each other, of tremendous energy. It's one thing to have money, it's another to use it wisely. Timebanking can be too transactional. Some kids have reformed it in more of a club model, with different levels of membership based on commitment.

    Q. Could you intervene with the British Government at tell them there are systems that we can use for true co=production?

    A. "I have promised, like the bad penny, to return." Yesterday he spoke to a group of officials. He would be delighted to have that opportunity. in 1980 he had a heart attack that destroyed 60% of his heart. He's had one two week holiday since then, a honeymoon and little else. His heart is 80% healed. Getting up each day with a purpose is a powerful thing.

    Is there a place for God in education?

    I'm at the RSA this evening, for a debate over a rather contentious subject: the role of religion in education. I'll be liveblogging it as best I can here.

    (Oh, and I'm on my iPad, wishing I had brought my MacBook)

    Sheena McDonald is in the chair. Good luck to her.

    First up is Trevor Cooling, who wrote the report Doing God in Education. How people handle matters of belief is going to shape our world, he suggests. Learning to live together withe very different strongly-held beliefs is going to be ever more important. The consensus of a fair, broad education masks a fault line. most campaigning for diversity in education is based on the irrelevance of religion. Cooper argues that people's beliefs fundamentally inform their view of knowledge. Why cannot education be predicated on religion as a resource for communities, rather than as clutter in the system?

    Andrew Copson argues that humanists are calling for fairness, rather than an unbiased view, and that Cooling's report misrepresents that. The BHA is in favour of teaching about a wide range of religions in school, so they can test their own emerging beliefs. That's the right place for them.

    Dr Joyce Miller (a practicing Buddhist) likes the fact that the report addresses the idea the education is not free of inherent values. She feels it's essential that is engaged with in schools. However, she's not comfortable with the essentially Christian view outlined. All voices should contribute to the wellbeing and development of children.

    Mohamed Mukadam suggests that our community is built of people of many beliefs and none - and varying levels of those beliefs. Faith schools cater to that diversity. Fairness does not require the closure of those schools, but is a spur for sitting down for a discussion. They are important for the very devout - they are a stepping stone to bring the isolated into mainstream society. Cooling advocates "courageous restraint" For teachers - he doesn't have to be afraid of his beliefs, as it stands as an example to children. But he must engage with criticism and debate. Stand back and give others the space to say what they want to say.

    Canon Dr Ann Holt wants to argue that the only way to allow people to be who they are in public is to allow for a diversity of provision. Education has much to do with shaping identity. Faith schools are not funded by the state, they're funded by the people, whose money is administered by the state. Believers pay their taxes like unbelievers. It's not just teaching about religion - that's a reductionist form of knowledge. Every school should teach about religion. But education should not happen in a spiritual and moral vacuum. We need methodologies and curricula that honour that. What are we looking for in management of the public square? Are we looking for acquiescence to a dominance secularity? Or a genuinely tolerant view, because tolerance presumes disagreement.

    Cooling thinks that children should be taught to think about the beliefs that shape values, so they can challenge and question, rather than adhering to the prevailing cultural and media norms. Copson thinks he's going too far - partially because he sees values as flexible, changing things. And he's the first to mention Creationism… The gloss science teachers who are christian and humanist put on their teaching will be different - but the worldview is irrelevant, because the base science is the same.

    And that's why our curriculum is so boring, says Holt. There's a rich history of philosophy and religion, and an empty view taught in schools leaves them feeling hopeless.

    Mukadam suggests that we gave to give God a role in schools. A curriculum which doesn't include a spiritual element is utilitarian - it teaches kids to be economic units, rather that to question the big issues: who am I? why do I exist? Why can those who have decided against God get to enforce that in education? And…he's close to preaching rather than arguing now.

    Miller doesn't think science is as neutral as Copson argues. She likes the Buddhist idea of heart and mind as one, and we ned to think about the whole child.

    Cooling responds to Copson by saying that he doesn't think that world views are inflexible. But he does think that the secular position that religion is irrelevant to most subjects is a belief and a worldview in its own right.

    First questioner is editorialising, rather than asking a question. Pluralism. Blah.

    Professor Richard Norman who came up with the clutter idea, agrees that the humanist position is that religion is a resource that can be drawn from throughout the curriculum. However, he suggests that the use of "worldview" in the report suggests an all-encompassing framework more than a resource.

    And it's just been pointed out that we have one unbeliever amongst five on the panel… By the chair of the British Humanist Association. He suggests that Cooling's report is a manifesto for the colonisation of schools by the religious. He feels that it is possible for people to behave in a neutral way - it's part of the professionalism of being a teacher.

    Ex-Catholic gay man asking a question. The institutions represented at the table are institutionally homophobic and misogynistic, he says. Why should people be allowed to do this to children? Cooling apologises for the harm does by religion, but he qualifies it by saying that atheists do harm, too.

    A statistician from Brent says she was lucky to grow up there, because there were no faith schools, so she experienced a rich diversity in education, and formed her own views. isn't this about the children not the parents, she asked?

    Mukadam argues that the question confuses the value (homosexuality is wrong) with hating the people. These are not the same thing. Miller says this is exactly the debate that should happen in RE, but without an evangelistic bent, just as they're not allowed to promote party politics - and declares that as a Buddhist she is not a believer. It's two to three not four to one.

    An ex-teacher suggests that his experience is that all teaching is coloured by a worldview. Another asks if room for religion means room for all political ideologies, too. Miller points out that ideologies is a loaded world. People who agree with you have worldviews, and those who disagree have ideologies…

    One teacher points out that learning is a metacognitive process, and should be viewed through the lens of beliefs as a result.

    It's disappointing that so many of the questioners from the audience aren't actually asking questions, they're just having their say (rant?).

    Mukadam is "surprised" by the depth of feeling against religion in schools. Hasn't been paying attention to public debate of late, it seems. Copson wants to see the reform of state-funded faith schools is because they're not forced to give a balanced teaching of different belief. He doesn't buy the spiritual vacuum argument leading straight to faith schools. Miller is amazed that no-one has mentioned forced collective worship in schools. Cooling found it disturbing that people are accusing him of believing all sorts of things he doesn't. He believes that you can't have values without beliefs (religious or otherwise), so children need to be helped to understand that.

    And we're done.

    So, wait, politicians aren't allowed to have sex?

    Britain is a strange place, sometimes. Sally Bercow, wife of the speaker of the House of Commons, has caused outrage - OUTRAGE - for posing in a mildly salacious pic (above) and admitting that they find sleeping in sight of the Houses of Parliament to be a bit sexy.

    When John and I were first courting we used to walk along the South Bank and look at the Houses of Parliament. I never realised then how sexy I would find living under Big Ben with the bells chiming. 
    Politicians as a breed aren't particularly sexy but I think politics can be sexy because power is an aphrodisiac.

    And outrage results. The Times [£]:

    The apologies did little to impress MPs. One Tory minister said: “There are limits but this goes too far. This is a fierce challenge to the dignity of Parliament. The sooner we are rid of the both of them, the better.”

    Yes, the dignity of Parliament is impugned when married couple have sexy time. Chaste MPs only, please!

    Even Guido Fawkes, who is a watcher of totty himself, pitches in

    The discontent is growing and coming from higher up the Tory ladder

    Members of the Tory party, I hate to break this to you: your leader has many children. He has, I suspect, been induldging in sexy time. With his not-unattractive wife

    OK, I get it. People don't like John Bercow. But this isn't political debate, or a matter of his competancy. This is salacious gossip, mixed up with some good old puriance. 

    Married people are allowed to have sex. It does not damage anyone or anything's dignity to talk about it a little. Move on, people. 

    Archiving and publishing the relationships of the past

    Adam in QMWSU
    Scanning photos is fun. It allows you to rediscover images that you'd all but forgotten about. Often you can improve them, and you can certainly share them more once they're in digital format. This is all good.

    But it's not all straightforward. The photo above is from a film of images shot at my student union in 1994. That's me. Photos of me are fine, I can share them without hesitation. But elsewhere in those photos are some picture of my girlfriend from the time. Probably not fair to share those  - but why do I feel that way about one person, and not all the other friends in the pictures? Is it because those pictures were taken in the context of a relationship that no longer exists?

    Another film that I've just scanned (the one that produced yesterday's little gem) is of a party at a friend's house - but from a period when he was still with his ex-wife. There's some gems in there, but I feel uncomfortable sharing too many of them, because of that ended, moved-on-from relationship. 10 years ago, I'd have probably shared everything without much thought as to the consequences. I've become a little more sensitive to the nuances of relationships, trust and history since then. Those historical relationships can sit tight in my personal archives, maybe never to be seen again and maybe to emerge once all the people involved are in no position to care anymore. After all, there's always some uncontroversial ones to share:

    Scan-101118-0020 - Version 2
    I do wonder if these sorts of scruples will seem archaic pretty soon. Today's 20-somethings are leaving the digital footsteps of their current relationships all over the web (and Facebook in particular). Maybe they'll come to regret it. Or maybe we'll all just become much more comfortable with our own pasts…

    The Named Famous Face

    Well, after my ruminations on the last Scarlett Johansson bus advert not being immediately recognisable as her, the winter campaign has her name in big old letters on the bus.

    Just as well, as she's even less recognisable in this one...

    It appears to be a colour toned version of this pic:


    The Anonymous Famous Face

    I saw this on the side of a bus the other day. It was striking, in a slightly Bet Lynch sort of way... 

    Striking enough, in fact, that I went to the Mango site to see the rest of the images. And I discovered something I hadn't realised: the model in the image was a famous actress, one I've referred to before on this blog. Yet, when I'd looked at the image I'd had absolutely no idea it was Scarlett Johannson.

    In fact, I'd noted this one in passing a few weeks before, and equally not noted its star content: Sj2 And that got me thinking…

    Mango have clearly spent a lot of money on these images: for a skilled photographer (Mario Sorrenti), because the images are great. But also for a "name" - an actress, not a model - and that's what these images are making me question. Was it worth it? If she isn't instantly recognisable - and this is far enough from Johannson's traditional image to make me think that she won't be for many -  and the campaign isn't trumpeting her identity, is Mango getting its money's worth here?

    And if not, what made them use her? A quick Google search reveals that the news that she was the new "spokesmodel" for the company is all over the celeb gossip blogs. And perhaps that's it - the readers of those are the perfect demographic for Mango clothes.

    But I can't help feeling that celebrity endorsement has become so prevalent that its impact is diluted to almost homoeopathic strengths...

    Anti-Ginger Nuts

    Gingerism: is it racism? - Styledash:

    According the BBC, red-head hating is still going strong around the world, but especially in the UK. Based on anecdotal reports, nearly every natural red-head has faced at least some kind of discrimination ranging from childhood taunting, to sexual rejection to violent hate crimes. (The most extreme case of anti-red-head sentiment, of course, being the 2003 stabbing of a red-headed 20-year-old man.)

    Personally, I think this is all about lingering cultural prejudice against the Celts. They were the one-time rulers of the British Isles, who eventually got pushed to the very edges of the islands, and their distinctive characteristics became undesirable, as it marked you as one of the losers.

    However, i have to be careful here, as my wife is very much a redhead…

    Which reminds me, does anyone else think that there's something missing from this? In particular, that female redheads actually get an easier ride than male redheads? Certainly in much of the US, and the UK too, a red-headed woman is seen as an attractive proposition.

    Why is it cool for women to be redheads, and embarrassing for men?

    Attack of the Moans

    Am I the only person left who is still excited by the idea of a new Star Wars film? The teaser for Attack of the Clones is up on Apple’s web site, and it looks good. Now, I know that it will never give me the same sort of buzz I got from the originals when I was seven. Still, I don’t feel that the same level of visual imagination and co-operative world building can be found in the cinema in anything else.

    Sure, the plot’s simplistic. Talented kid goes bad, causes downfall of staggering republic and rise of evil empire. His son redeems him and together the destroy the mastermind of the evil empire. There you go, the six films in two sentences.

    The really enjoyable thing, for me, is the incredible vision that goes into creating the look, sound and feel of the film. Lucas may not be the best scriptwriter or director in the world, but as a visionary who can drive forward a team of creative people to produce something quite remarkable, he’s seriously short on equals.

    So, come the launch of Attack of the Clones, I’ll be there, enjoying the cool lightsabre fights. And I’ll enjoy it, even if I’m the only person in the cinema.

    See the Episode II trailer here.